A grand jury has refused to indict three university football players on charges of first-degree rape, returning a finding of “no bill” in the case, according to local media reports.
Our Birmingham sex crime defense attorneys know that while the players are likely incredibly relieved by this finding, far too many of those falsely accused have to fight much harder – and longer – for a positive outcome.
The problem is that a great number of these cases rely heavily on one person’s word against another’s. For all our talk of “rape culture” and “victim blaming” in this country, our experience is that law enforcement is often quick to pursue claims of sexual wrongdoing.
Some cases may be fairly clear-cut. One example might be a violent assault reportedly perpetrated by someone unknown to the victim and whose DNA is found to be present during a subsequent forensic examination.
However, many cases are far more ambiguous. As sexual assault awareness campaigns have proliferated on college campuses in recent years, we have seen a rise in the number of rape claims by victims who aren’t exactly sure whether they have truly been assaulted. In many cases, there has been alcohol or drug use by the parties involved. Other “victims” may recognize that they weren’t in fact sexually assaulted, but could be driven by shame regarding their actions while under the influence or fear of damage to an existing relationship.
There is little regard for the fact that a mere accusation can have a profound and long-lasting impact for the person on the receiving end.
This particular case first unfolded in March. A young woman who was reportedly already intoxicated met the three men at a local bar and returned with them to a dorm room. There, she reportedly engaged in sexual activity with all three.
A videotape would later surface showing her after the fact, laughing and talking about what had just occurred.
However, later that evening, when the woman returned to her friends, she was reportedly acting very strangely. As such, her friends took her to a nearby emergency room. There, a claim was made that she had engaged in sex for which she was likely too intoxicated to provide consent. There was also a claim that she may have been slipped some sort of date rape drug. However, chemical testing ruled out this possibility.
Still, the three men, two aged 19 and the other 20, were arrested on first-degree rape charges. They were kicked off the football team and expelled from the school. One lost his scholarship.
In order to prove rape in the first-degree, per Alabama Code 13A-6-61, prosecutors need to show that the person engaged in sexual intercourse with someone of the opposite sex by forcible compulsion, or with someone who was physically or mentally incapacitated or someone who was under the age of 12 when the accused was over the age of 16. This is a Class A felony, meaning it carries a minimum of 10 years in prison and a maximum of life sentence.
The video evidence likely went a long way in clearing these three. Not all defendants have that advantage. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you explore further options.
Now, they are each trying to get re-enrolled, get back on the team and regain their scholarships. We wish them all the best.